2020 marks a quarter-century of Vietnam’s ASEAN membership

11:15 | 26/01/2020 Vietnam - Asean

(VEN) - The year 2020 will be a banner year for Vietnam as it assumes the chair of the 11-member ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) bloc and takes its seat at the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) for the 2020-2021 term. Vietnam Economic News’ Thu Hang spoke with Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh about these key roles. 

2020 marks a quarter century of vietnams asean membership
Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh

What is your assessment of Vietnam-ASEAN economic cooperation and how does the relationship benefit Vietnam?

Vietnam joined ASEAN in 1995 after the lifting of the US embargo, and set off on a path of comprehensive and extensive reform. The country joined the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) in 1996 with a series of intra-regional commitments to opening its market. That was the first time we practiced “swimming in a relatively large lake”, opening our market by zeroing 98 percent of all tax lines.

Vietnam has increasingly held leading roles within ASEAN in politics, trade and foreign investment, actively pursuing its integration strategy and opening its doors to the outside world.

Vietnam’s accession to ASEAN and AFTA were the first steps to realizing the resolution of the seventh Party Congress, which highlighted external relation strategies based on multilateralism and diversification and established economic cooperation as an important foundation.

Vietnam’s development in the ensuing years served as a foundation for its integration strategies, external relations and economic growth in later periods.

In the 24 years since Vietnam joined ASEAN and AFTA, it has greatly expanded its global integration and commitments. The two agreements have served as a type of diploma, an important foundation to help Vietnam reach new heights.

ASEAN has become one of Vietnam’s leading trading, investment and political partners. In 1996, when Vietnam joined AFTA, the country’s trade with other countries in the bloc was only some US$5.9 billion. In 2018, that figure increased almost tenfold to reach about US$56.3 billion. Although we had a certain level of deficit in trade with ASEAN, it is acceptable. However, compared to the beginning of integration, we have made great strides.

Vietnam so far has signed 16 free trade agreements (FTAs), affirming its capabilities and global influence. Vietnam has relations with many of the world’s largest economies, and FTAs with 15 of the G20 countries.

The ASEAN Economic Community formed in December 2015 has also affirmed Vietnam’s active contribution to the common platform.

The ASEAN Economic Community and ASEAN Vision 2025 are basic orientations to ensure that Vietnam and its ASEAN partners prosper and achieve regional peace, stability.

2020 marks a quarter century of vietnams asean membership

Could you specify the prioritized orientations of Vietnam and the Ministry of Industry and Trade for ASEAN 2020?

The year 2020 is of great significance to Vietnam, as Vietnam becomes a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. It is also the final year of the five-year tenure of the national Party Congress and marks the start of the country’s 10-year or 2020-2030 socioeconomic strategy.

To fulfill the responsibility of the ASEAN Chair, we need consistent and clear viewpoints, both in terms of foreign relations and factors related to Vietnam’s development strategies and goals, not just for the next five but 10 years, and even longer.

With the centralized and unified direction of the government and the prime minister, Vietnam has reached consensus on the ASEAN 2020 theme: Cohesive and Responsive.

These two elements truly reflect the needs of Vietnam and ASEAN member states in the context of rapid regional and global changes.

Vietnam’s priorities in 2020 are to advance the bloc’s orientations and also reflect regional and global development trends.

Vietnam will seek to address complex developments, which require quick ASEAN responses.

These include technology platforms like the Fourth Industrial Revolution, digital economy, innovation startups, e-commerce, as well as value chains in the region, in industry or of specific ASEAN commodity groups.

In this rapidly changing and complicated context, as chair of the bloc, Vietnam must act as a coordinator to uphold the responsive capacity.

The Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that Vietnam and ASEAN countries are expected to sign with partners in 2020 will open up a new vista and a new structure of the region and the world.

A free trade area whose gross domestic product (GDP) accounts for nearly 40 percent of the world’s will have very strong impact on globalization and free trade and prevent trade protectionism.

In these contexts, and in order to reach these goals, Vietnam will select priorities reflecting the ASEAN common vision, contribute to global trends and at the same time adhere to the aims and purposes of ASEAN and FTA agreements. Vietnam will propose 16-17 initiatives covering various fields for its ASEAN Chairmanship 2020.

Thu Hang